BOSTON – The Bruins are back in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, so there will be glorious postseason hockey back in Boston this spring for a city full of hockey fans that thirst for it.
The B’s clinched at least a wild card spot with authority by shutting out the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-0 win on Tuesday night at TD Garden for their sixth straight win while finishing the season at their red-hot best. Clearly missing the postseason cut by a single point in each of the last two years was a bitter pill for the Bruins players to swallow, and in particular the six players on the roster that are still hold-overs from the 2011 Stanley Cup title.
But it’s also pretty clear this return to the playoffs is for everybody that feels like they’ve been missing out because of late season breakdowns from the Bruins previously malfunctioning group.
“You know, I think the city deserves [the playoffs]. The organization deserves it, and, you know, we feel like we deserve it too,” said Tuukka Rask, who stopped 28 pucks in the 4-0 win for his career-best eighth shutout of the season. “We fought hard all year to secure a spot, and it took 80 games, so it’s a good feeling. I think everybody can breathe a little easier now, but we’ve still got two games left and then real games start so... but great accomplishment [for now].”
Now it’s about playoff positioning for the Black and Gold, and a mission to win the final two games in order to ensure they capture third spot in the Atlantic Division, and thereby lock up a first round match-up against either Toronto or Ottawa. It won’t be easy given that they’ll play the Senators and Capitals at home close out the regular season, but this team is also playing with “house money” at this point after pushing into the playoff picture.
“To get it done earlier and later and relieve some pressure that maybe some guys are feeling [is great]. But we did a good job of sticking to our guns and playing the right way, and it was a big win tonight,” said Torey Krug. “This is a really fun city to play in in the playoffs. We still have a job to do with a couple of games left. But, I’m looking forward to it.
“You want to be the team that starts the playoffs off on the right foot and we’re playing the right way. We still have two left to improve our position in the playoffs and you want to do that. You want to feel good about your game entering the playoffs and hopefully you can ride that out, especially with the goalies the way they’re playing right now, it’s easy to play in front of them. It lets us be assertive and aggressive, and it’ll be good for our team.”
Anything can happen, obviously, once the playoffs begin no matter what the seeding or what happened during the regular season, but the Bruins are pretty clearly looking to prolong the six game streak they’re on right into the playoffs.